4G Home Wireless Review: Is it good enough for everyday use?

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If your household is anything like mine, then you’ll have numerous devices connected to the internet at once, with children constantly demanding screen-based entertainment, whether it’s games, streaming, or maybe even ‘research’ for homework. And sure, the adults in the house like to use the internet a bit as well – but usually just for work, you understand. So, when the National Broadband Network became available in our suburb, you’d think we jumped on board straight away, right? Well, no actually, writes Simon Downes.

It’s not like I expected some kind of NBN horror story – we’ve all seen the news reports for years now, whether it’s technicians not turning up when they’re supposed to, phone lines causing chaos, or your previously ultra-fast internet connection now struggling to download an email attachment. As someone whose job involves needing to have a better-than-average understanding of the network, I know as well as anyone that most people have a perfectly reasonable experience with the NBN. But I also know there are alternatives – and that switching to the NBN is NOT compulsory, provided you’re not married to the idea of a fixed line internet connection. And that’s where home wireless broadband comes in.

Why I use 4G home wireless rather than the NBN

The letters from NBN Co were starting to pile up. The countdown to NBN in our area was well underway and it was decision time. Our old ADSL2+ internet connection was about to be turned off, and then how were the kids going to watch Ryan’s World on YouTube? Sure, we were getting letters about the NBN for about 18 months, but we had things to do! Most of our neighbours had already connected after being inundated with reminders by various telcos, and their reports were largely positive. But I wasn’t so sure that getting on the NBN bandwagon straight away was the right move for us. So, time to look into what we can do.

I did what the NBN Co letters told me and contacted a service provider, after comparing NBN plans on Canstar Blue, of course. It turns out our house has a Hybrid Fibre Coaxial NBN connection, which is actually one of the best connection types to have. I won’t go into detail about why that is, but if you’re keen to learn more about the fastest NBN connection type, follow that link. The only downside to having one of the best types available at your place is that you need to have an NBN connection box installed at your property. Call me crazy, but I just didn’t fancy it. Nor was I super excited about the prospect of NBN installation day and the inconvenience of all that.

This is where it’s worth saying that – if there were no other options – I obviously would have gone along with the whole NBN thing, and I’m sure it would have been fine. But the elephant in the room – the one thing that has got many a tech-savvy consumer thinking about whether they really need the NBN or not – is 5G! Why would I install the NBN now when 5G is being rolled out across the country – providing an awesome wireless alternative to the stone-age-idea of connecting to the internet via cables running to your house. OK, maybe not quite stone age. But you get the point?

5G is being rolled out in certain parts, but unfortunately that doesn’t yet include our suburb. However, that didn’t put me off saying ‘no thanks’ to the NBN for now and opting for 4G home wireless instead.

Wireless modem close up
The wireless modem set up in my kitchen.

4G home wireless broadband – it really is ‘plug and play’

Home wireless broadband is just about as hassle-free and commitment-free as you could imagine when it comes to getting the WiFi on at your place, provided you go with a month-to-month contract rather than signing up for a year or two, that is. I wouldn’t do that with any type of internet service given the highly variable level of performance – not to mention customer service – that you can expect from one provider to the next. So, a monthly 4G home wireless plan it was. That meant an upfront charge for the modem, but it was a price I was willing to pay to try it out.

The telcos often promote home wireless as simply ‘plug and play’ – and they’re not wrong. I thought it was going to be slightly more complicated to set up, but no. Here’s what happened:

  • Order placed online
  • Modem arrived next day
  • Put SIM card in modem
  • Plugged modem into wall
  • Got the WiFi key off modem
  • Connected to the internet

It couldn’t have been easier. We were off to a great start. But what about the performance?

Home Wireless Broadband Plans

Southern Phone Wireless Broadband Plans

The following table shows a selection of published Southern Phone wireless broadband plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Southern Phones Logo

Home Wireless 50

  • $79 upfront WiFi modem
  • Optus 4G wireless broadband network

min. cost $1,279 over 24 month plan period

200GBMax Data**/billing period $50Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Southern Phones Logo

Home Wireless 70

  • $79 upfront WiFi modem
  • Optus 4G wireless broadband network

min. cost $1,759 over 24 month plan period

500GBMax Data**/billing period $70Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Tangerine Wireless Broadband Plans

The following table shows a selection of published Tangerine wireless broadband plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Tangerine Logo

200GB Plan

  • Optus 4G Plus Network coverage
  • Optional modem from $259.90 upfront
  • Special offer: $59.90 per month for first 6 months, then $69.90 ongoing

min. cost $59.90 over first month

200GBMax Data**/billing period $69.90Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Tangerine Logo

500GB Plan

  • Optus 4G Plus Network coverage
  • Optional modem from $259.90 upfront
  • Special offer: $69.90 per month for first 6 months, then $79.90 ongoing

min. cost $69.90 over first month

500GBMax Data**/billing period $79.90Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Tangerine Logo

1000GB Plan

  • Optus 4G Plus Network coverage
  • Optional modem from $259.90 upfront
  • Special offer: $89.90 per month for first 6 months, then $99.90 ongoing

min. cost $99.90 over first month

1000GBMax Data**/billing period $99.90Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Optus Wireless Broadband Plans

The following table shows a selection of published Optus wireless broadband plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Optus Logo

4G Wireless Broadband 200GB

  • Includes: B8 18 modem

min. cost $1,560 over 24 month plan period

200GBMax Data**/billing period $65Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Optus Logo

4G Wireless Broadband 500GB

  • Includes: B8 18 modem

min. cost $2,040 over 24 month plan period

500GBMax Data**/billing period $85Advertised Cost^^/billing period
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Yomojo Wireless Broadband Plans

The following table shows a selection of published Yomojo wireless broadband plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Yomojo Logo

Home Wireless Broadband Plan

  • $179 Netcomm 4G Gateway upfront cost

min. cost $238.90 for the first month

200GBMax Data**/billing period $59.90Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Yomojo Logo

Home Wireless Broadband Plan

  • $179 Netcomm 4G Gateway upfront cost

min. cost $258.90 for the first month

500GBMax Data**/billing period $79.90Advertised Cost^^/billing period
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Spintel Wireless Broadband Plans

The following table shows a selection of published Spintel wireless broadband plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Spintel Logo

Basic Home Wireless Broadband Plan (12Mbps)

  • $179 upfront for NetComm WiFi modem ($20 P&H)
  • $100 account credit

min. cost $798.40 over 12 month plan period

200GBMax Data**/billing period $49.95Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Spintel Logo

Home Wireless Broadband Plan (High Speed 4G)

  • $179 upfront for NetComm WiFi modem ($20 P&H)
  • $100 account credit

min. cost $858.40 over 12 month plan period

200GBMax Data**/billing period $54.95Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Spintel Logo

Home Wireless Broadband (High Speed 4G)

  • $179 upfront for NetComm WiFi modem ($20 P&H)
  • $100 account credit

min. cost $1,038.40 over 12 month plan period

500GBMax Data**/billing period $69.95Advertised Cost^^/billing period
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Is 4G home wireless any good?

The short answer is yes, 4G wireless broadband is pretty good for your everyday home internet needs, but with some caveats. The problem is that, at the time of writing at least, no provider offers unlimited data on 4G home wireless plans. And man, we were used to unlimited data at home! But with a little planning – and resourcefulness – you can manage fine.

Our plan comes with just 500GB of data which – considering we often have four people all streaming on different devices at the same time in the evenings – seems unlikely to last the whole month. But that’s where the resourcefulness comes in. Considering both adults in the house have mobile phones, we’ve decided to make use of our plan data as much as possible, so upgraded to better phone deals where we both get 35GB data each. That might just make the difference towards the end of the month… Though it’s worth saying that our 4G wireless plan only charges $1.53 per GB of excess data, which is pretty cool.

What’s the speed like?

Pretty good most of the time. When we first plugged in the modem, we were only getting about 5Mbps download speeds, which was quite underwhelming. But the key to home wireless broadband seems to be finding the ‘sweet spot’ for signal in your house. Once we moved the modem around a bit, we found we could consistently reach up to about 22Mbps downloads, which is easily enough for us. Those who know their NBN will know that 22Mbps is pretty close to the ‘Standard’ evening speed tier. So, we’re doing alright. We have recorded a maximum speed of about 33Mbps, but we don’t always get this high.

Is 4G wireless good value?

Honestly, the value is not amazing compared to what you could get with an unlimited data NBN plan, I accept that. But like I’ve explained, we’re kinda playing the long game here. If we got an unlimited data NBN plan delivering comparable speeds to what we’re getting with 4G home wireless, we’d be paying about $70 with one of the big-name providers. For unlimited data, that’s pretty good. This compares to $75 per month for 500GB data on our wireless plan.

But it seems that – like I suspect many Australians – we have overestimated our need for unlimited data.  We’re averaging about 5GB data usage per day on weekdays, plus about 10GB per day on weekends. All being well, we’ll never need the safety net of our phone plan data. At this stage, the value certainly isn’t amazing, but I’m happy with the price for now while we wait for 5G to become available.

So, how’s 4G wireless working out?

I’m really glad we’ve tried it. The speeds are decent, the price is reasonable, and we’re well-placed to connect to 5G when it’s available in our area. I’m sure the NBN would have been fine, too. But honestly, I’m not sure we’ll ever need it.

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